New Delhi: Amid raging tension over the deepening Ukraine crisis, India and Russia held high-level talks Monday, with Moscow set to begin its term as president of the UN Security Council (UNSC) for the month of February.
Russia’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, Sergey Vasilyevich Vershinin, visited India Monday and met Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and Reenat Sandhu, secretary (West), Ministry of External Affairs.
The Russian deputy foreign minister met Sandhu Monday together with Moscow’s ambassador to India, Nikolay Kudashev, and its deputy chief of mission, Roman Babushkin, among others.
According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), bilateral consultations were held on UN-related issues during the meeting.
“Both sides held wide-ranging discussions on issues on the UN Security Council agenda and related developments. Both sides agreed to deepen cooperation on issues of mutual interest at multilateral platforms. The Russian delegation briefed India on its priorities during the 76th session of the UN General Assembly,” said a statement by the MEA.
“Both sides also agreed to work closely together, given the common challenges faced and in keeping with their longstanding Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership,” it added.
Vershinin’s hurricane tour comes at a time when tensions between Moscow and Washington have heightened over Russia’s purported plans to invade Ukraine as it ratchets up its military presence near the border.
The Joe Biden administration has said it is currently working on an economic sanctions package against Russia, targeting banks and state enterprises.
India had last week called for a peaceful resolution to the Ukraine crisis through diplomatic efforts, and said that it was monitoring developments regularly through its embassy in Kyiv.
New Delhi has been discussing the matter with the US as well as Moscow ever since tensions heightened in the past month.
Russia, a permanent member of the UNSC, has, however, denied any intention to go to war.
According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, “If it depends on Russia, there will be no war. We don’t want wars, but we won’t allow anyone to trample on our interests or ignore them, either.”
India makes a statement on Ukraine at UNSC
Meanwhile, India’s ambassador to the UN, T.S. Tirumurti, made a statement at the UN Security Council Monday on the evolving situation in Ukraine.
“India’s interest is in finding a solution that can provide for immediate de-escalation of tensions, taking into account the legitimate security interests of all countries and aimed towards securing long term peace and stability in the region and beyond. We have also been in touch with all concerned parties,” he said.
Tirumurti stressed, “Flowing from the recently concluded meeting in Paris under the Normandy format, we also welcome the unconditional observance of the July 2020 ceasefire (in Donbass) and reaffirmation of the Minsk Agreements as the basis of work under the ongoing Normandy format, in particular, commitment of all sides to reduce disagreements on the way forward. We also welcome their agreement to meet in Berlin in two weeks.”
The Minsk Agreements were signed in 2014 and 2015 in an attempt to end a separatist struggle by Russian speakers in Ukraine.
Urging all parties to continue engaging through all diplomatic channels “and to keep working towards the full implementation of the ‘Minsk Package’,” Tirumurti said, “Quiet and constructive diplomacy is the need of the hour. Any steps that increase tension may best be avoided by all sides in the larger interest of securing international peace and security.”
Tirumurti also underlined the fact that more than 20,000 Indian students and nationals live and study in different parts of Ukraine, including in its border areas, and that their wellbeing remains a “priority” for India.
At the meeting Russia accused the US of trying to “create hysteria” over the situation on Ukraine’s borders.
Ahead of the meeting, Russia called for a procedural vote on holding the US-initiated meet as it did not want the discussions to be done in an open format. India, along with Gabon and Kenya abstained during the vote. Russia and China voted against holding of the meeting.
However the meeting proceeded as decided by the US since it was able to obtain ten votes. Only nine votes are needed to hold a meeting in such a format.